The early veneer platering systems were very similar to the blueboard that we use today.
It's similar to drywall in that it comes in sheets. However back then the sheets were about 2x6 or 2x8.
Also these sheets, and the blueboard that we use today, has a much stronger plaster between the sheets of paper. So it it (was) a much better product then drywall.
Once the sheets were installed the plasterer would apply a coat of sanded plaster and lime over it.......then the white coat of gauging/lime.
You can do this today with drywall (although drywall is not as strong as blueboard). However, you will need to apply a bonding agent to it.
You can get the bonding agent from most hardware stores. Look for cement adhesive or plaster adhesive. Don't use a binder, this is an admixture.
The basic ingredient of a plaster adhesive is P.V.A. (Poly-Vinyl Acetate), the same ingredient as Elmer's Will-Hold Glue.
Once you apply a coat of this stuff you then apply a coat of gypsum base coat. You will need to use a sanded base coat for this as a perlited base will eventually spall off due to the co-effecience of expansion and contraction. Get USG RedTop Gypsum Plaster.
For the white coat you have to use a gauging/lime mix. However there is a pre-mixed material you can use. USG RedTop Finish Plaster....Regular set. If you want to use a gauging/lime mixture you should also add sand to it. Use a very fine sand.
If you use the premixed material mix it in a bucket and trowel it on.
This is pretty basic so if you have any more questions I'll be glad to help.
Brian Ewing http://www.craftsmensquare.com/Index/index.html